Skip to content

Baseball is not a movie. Stop trying to dramatize it.

Feb 6, 2013, 1:00 PM EDT

Brief Encounter

I think I stumbled upon the single most significant thing said about the entire baseball-PEDs story. The writer, Tom Verducci, likely did not realize he was saying the most significant thing about it all, but he did all the same.

After correctly noting that athlete after athlete has denied using PEDs in the past, only to later be found to have used them, Verducci says we can’t take anyone’s denial at face value anymore. Why?

… but we have seen how the movie ends too many times.

Thinking of this as a movie — or a grand drama of any kind — is why the discourse about PEDs has become so stupid.  When we think of it as a drama we require heroes and villains. We require quick resolution. We require a stunning, conclusive and emotionally satisfying dénouement.

But baseball isn’t a movie or a play. It’s a sport, played without a script by real living and breathing human beings.  We’ve been conditioned to think of it in dramatic terms because the sporting press developed as a means of dramatizing that which most people didn’t get a chance to see in newspaper accounts, but it is not itself a drama.

When baseball gets into the realm of PEDs and law enforcement our tendency to treat it as a drama is even stronger. Sports are often dramatized, but TV shows and movies have featured cops, doctors and lawyers more than anyone else by a factor of a million.  Put that all together and it’s almost impossible not to think of things like BALCO or the Biogenesis story in the same terms we think of “Law and Order” or “House.”

But that’s not how real life works. In real life stuff happens. If that stuff seems problematic or suspicious, it often, but not always, gets investigated. That stuff may have been motivated by evil, but it may have also been motivated by stupidity or accident or a combination of them all. Or there may be a mistake.  When the stuff gets investigated something approaching justice may result. But just as often nothing may come of it because there are dead ends or nothing particularly bad happened or because everyone just loses interest in the stuff. There may be consequences to it all or it may be meaningless.   It almost always takes a long time to determine whether the stuff meant anything or not.

That reality is really problematic for people who are used to packaging three hour ballgames into 800 word chapters and 162-game seasons into a novel, complete with heroes and villains. Which is why people in that world seem to eager to leap into this sports-legal-medical gumbo and begin to hash out plots.  It’s way easier to do that than to sit back and see what happens and what it all means. If it even means anything.

We let them do that with the games because they are, after all, just games. But when someone’s reputation, fortune, career and sometimes their very freedom is on the line, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me to expect them to lay the hell off for a bit and let events unfold before they try to stuff them into the little dramatic constructs with which we’re so familiar.

Latest Posts
  1. Ruben Amaro on Andy Oliver’s decision to elect free agency: “I think it was a very foolish move on his part, but that’s OK.”

    Apr 17, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT

    Andy Oliver Andy Oliver

    Ruben Amaro seems a little upset that Andy Oliver didn’t want to start the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

  2. Mets will bring back Rafael Montero as a starting pitcher near the end of April

    Apr 17, 2015, 10:50 PM EDT

    Rafael Montero Rafael Montero

    The Mets will be stretching out Rafael Montero as a starter at Triple-A Las Vegas before bringing him back to the majors for a spot start against the Marlins.

  3. Mike Trout hit his 100th career home run to become the youngest member of the 100 HR/100 SB club

    Apr 17, 2015, 9:58 PM EDT

    Mike Trout Mike Trout

    Mike Trout became the youngest to join the 100/100 club with a two-run home run on Friday night.

  4. Make that two: Alex Rodriguez hits second homer of the night, giving him 658 for his career

    Apr 17, 2015, 9:17 PM EDT

    Alex Rodriguez Alex Rodriguez

    Alex Rodriguez has two home runs on Friday night, leaving him two round-trippers shy of tying Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time home run leaderboard.

  5. Video: Matt Carpenter leaps over Brayan Pena to score on a sacrifice fly

    Apr 17, 2015, 9:11 PM EDT

    Matt Carpenter Matt Carpenter

    Matt Carpenter made a cool maneuver to score the tying run in the bottom of the first against the Reds on Friday night.

  6. Ubaldo Jimenez was ejected, wrongfully, for hitting Pablo Sandoval with a pitch

    Apr 17, 2015, 8:45 PM EDT

    Ubaldo Jimenez Getty Images

    Neither side was warned, but Ubaldo Jimenez was ejected for hitting Pablo Sandoval with a pitch on Friday evening.

  7. Alex Rodriguez hit his 657th career home run

    Apr 17, 2015, 7:50 PM EDT

    a-rod reuters yankees Reuters

    A-Rod is now three home runs away from tying Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time home run leaderboard.

  8. The Tigers are 9-1. Does that mean anything?

    Apr 17, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT

    Jose Iglesias, Nick Castellanos, Ian Kinsler, Andrew Romine Jose Iglesias, Nick Castellanos, Ian Kinsler, Andrew Romine

    Since 2000, how often have teams that started 9-1 went on to have playoff success?

  9. Mark Buehrle is considering retiring after the 2015 season

    Apr 17, 2015, 6:20 PM EDT

    Mark Buehrle Mark Buehrle

    Mark Buehrle, baseball’s timeless left-hander, is reportedly considering retiring after the season.

  10. Mike Scioscia is concerned that Josh Hamilton is not “getting the help he needs”

    Apr 17, 2015, 5:28 PM EDT

    josh hamilton angels getty Getty Images

    Well, he’s certainly not getting the support of the Los Angeles Angels.

  11. Twins put Brian Duensing on disabled list, call up Caleb Thielbar

    Apr 17, 2015, 4:16 PM EDT

    Brian Duensing Getty Getty Images

    Duensing had an ugly outing Thursday in which he turned a blowout into a save situation for closer Glen Perkins.

  12. Jose Reyes has a cracked rib, will try to avoid disabled list

    Apr 17, 2015, 3:41 PM EDT

    jose reyes getty Getty Images

    Ryan Goins, who was called up from Triple-A, is expected to be Reyes’ primary fill-in at shortstop.

  13. Mets demote Rafael Montero to Triple-A

    Apr 17, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    Rafael Montero AP

    And call up infielder Danny Muno.

  14. Pirates activate Chris Stewart, send Tony Sanchez to minors

    Apr 17, 2015, 2:17 PM EDT

    Tony Sanchez Getty Images

    Sanchez was the fourth overall pick in the 2009 draft.

  15. Justin Verlander ruled out for Tuesday start after “normal soreness”

    Apr 17, 2015, 1:42 PM EDT

    Justin Verlander AP

    Left-hander Kyle Lobstein will continue to fill in for Verlander.

  16. Bryan Stow threw out the first pitch for the San Jose Giants home opener

    Apr 17, 2015, 11:37 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 11.36.24 AM

    Stow used to work as an EMT at San Jose games. Good to see him back. 

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. K. Bryant (3929)
  2. A. Guerrero (3577)
  3. A. Ottavino (3501)
  4. M. Brantley (3261)
  5. D. Span (3102)
  1. B. Gardner (3069)
  2. D. Mesoraco (3031)
  3. A. Rodriguez (2979)
  4. C. Gomez (2935)
  5. D. Salazar (2922)